The Big Ten wrapped up one of the most unique seasons in conference history. Along the way to a shortened season, a handful of players with NFL aspirations chose to sit out the season and focus on staying healthy and ready for the draft. That included some of the conference's top players on both sides of the football. And now that the season is in the books, we know just how many players are not only not taking advantage of an extra year of eligibility allowed by the NCAA, but how many are actually leaving early.
Not surprisingly, the Big Ten will be sending off some terrific pro-caliber players on offense and defense this year, which means big shoes to fill across the conference. Here is a look at some of the more notable players deciding to leave their Big Ten schools with remaining eligibility and who may step up in their place in 2021.
Gone: Justin Fields, QB
Fields certainly delivered on the hype in Columbus. Previously one of the most sought-after quarterback recruits, Fields relished in the opportunity to shine in his time in a Buckeye uniform, and now he is heading off to the NFL as one of the top quarterback prospects at the next level.
In: C.J. Stroud
Ohio State will have some young options to choose from in replacing Fields, barring any potential prizes through the transfer portal. But for now, Stroud feels like a safe pick to be the leader in the clubhouse heading into the spring. Kyle McCord may eventually be the guy in the future, but Stroud likely moves forward atop the depth chart.
Gone: Micah Parsons, LB
One of the best defensive players in the country didn't play at all in 2020. Parsons opted out of the season and began focusing on his NFL draft prep. Parsons was a monster for the Nittany Lions prior to his opting out, but not playing at all last year gave Penn State a chance to break in his replacement.
In: Jesse Luketa
Luketa ended up being the player tasked with filling in for Parsons, and he performed admirably. The four-star recruit in Penn State's 2018 class certainly isn't a scrub walk-on. Luketa was Penn State's second-leading tackler in 2020 and will remain a part of the linebacker nucleus on the defense in 2021.
Gone: Shaun Wade, CB